The UN General Assembly's 75th Session Under The Shadow of COVID-19

Published September 24th, 2020 - 05:53 GMT

Year in year out, every September, member states met in the UN General Assembly Hall in New York for its annual session and its highly-visible general debate. The modalities of the 75th session is different this year in the light of the global health crisis.

The General Assembly during the COVID-19 pandemic is carrying its work via novel means to guarantee business continuity and mitigate the spread of the disease.

The pandemic is not the only issue the world faces. Racism, intolerance, inequality, climate change, poverty, hunger, armed conflict and other ills remain global challenges. These challenges call for global action, and the session of the General Assembly is a critical opportunity for all to come together and chart a course for the future.

Most leaders will not be appearing in person and meetings are going virtual, but that’s not to say that the wheels of global diplomacy and sustainable development is not turning at the usual speed.

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American and United Nations flags fly across from the United Nations in Manhattan on the first official day of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2020 in New York City. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's gathering is mostly being held remotely with world leaders making speeches and appearances by video link. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

American and United Nations flags fly across from the United Nations in Manhattan on the first official day of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2020 in New York City. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's gathering is mostly being held remotely with world leaders making speeches and appearances by video link. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

A statue of Nelson Mandela stands at an empty entrance at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

A statue of Nelson Mandela stands at an empty entrance at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

A UN police officer stands at an empty entrance at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

A UN police officer stands at an empty entrance at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

A journalist walks around empty grounds at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

A journalist walks around empty grounds at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

General Assembly of the United Nations (Twitter)

General Assembly of the United Nations (Twitter)

A delegate arrives at the United Nations September 22, 2020 for the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

A delegate arrives at the United Nations September 22, 2020 for the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

Kelly Dawn Craft, United States Ambassador to the United Nations arrives at the United Nations September 22, 2020 for the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

Kelly Dawn Craft, United States Ambassador to the United Nations arrives at the United Nations September 22, 2020 for the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok attends a virtual meeting on Syria in The Hague, on September 23, 2020. The Netherlands uses the UN General Assembly to lobby for support for a lawsuit against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Bart Maat / ANP / AFP

Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok attends a virtual meeting on Syria in The Hague, on September 23, 2020. The Netherlands uses the UN General Assembly to lobby for support for a lawsuit against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Bart Maat / ANP / AFP

Queen Maxima of the Netherlands attends a meeting of the United Nations (UN) from Huis Ten Bosch in the Hague, on September 23, 2020. Patrick van Katwijk / ANP / AFP

Queen Maxima of the Netherlands attends a meeting of the United Nations (UN) from Huis Ten Bosch in the Hague, on September 23, 2020. Patrick van Katwijk / ANP / AFP

Iran's Atomic Energy Vice-President Ali Akbar Salehi, is seen speaking on a screen as he attends virtually the 64th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria on September 21, 2020. JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Iran's Atomic Energy Vice-President Ali Akbar Salehi, is seen speaking on a screen as he attends virtually the 64th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria on September 21, 2020. JOE KLAMAR / AFP

The United Nations building stands in Manhattan on the first official day of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2020 in New York City. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's gathering is mostly being held remotely with world leaders making speeches and appearances by video link. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The United Nations building stands in Manhattan on the first official day of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2020 in New York City. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's gathering is mostly being held remotely with world leaders making speeches and appearances by video link. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

American and United Nations flags fly across from the United Nations in Manhattan on the first official day of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2020 in New York City. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's gathering is mostly being held remotely with world leaders making speeches and appearances by video link. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP
A statue of Nelson Mandela stands at an empty entrance at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
A UN police officer stands at an empty entrance at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
A journalist walks around empty grounds at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
General Assembly of the United Nations (Twitter)
A delegate arrives at the United Nations September 22, 2020 for the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
Kelly Dawn Craft, United States Ambassador to the United Nations arrives at the United Nations September 22, 2020 for the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok attends a virtual meeting on Syria in The Hague, on September 23, 2020. The Netherlands uses the UN General Assembly to lobby for support for a lawsuit against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Bart Maat / ANP / AFP
Queen Maxima of the Netherlands attends a meeting of the United Nations (UN) from Huis Ten Bosch in the Hague, on September 23, 2020. Patrick van Katwijk / ANP / AFP
Iran's Atomic Energy Vice-President Ali Akbar Salehi, is seen speaking on a screen as he attends virtually the 64th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria on September 21, 2020. JOE KLAMAR / AFP
The United Nations building stands in Manhattan on the first official day of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2020 in New York City. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's gathering is mostly being held remotely with world leaders making speeches and appearances by video link. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP
American and United Nations flags fly across from the United Nations in Manhattan on the first official day of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2020 in New York City. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's gathering is mostly being held remotely with world leaders making speeches and appearances by video link. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP
American and United Nations flags fly across from the United Nations in Manhattan on the first official day of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2020 in New York City. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's gathering is mostly being held remotely with world leaders making speeches and appearances by video link. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP
A statue of Nelson Mandela stands at an empty entrance at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
A statue of Nelson Mandela stands at an empty entrance at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
A UN police officer stands at an empty entrance at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
A UN police officer stands at an empty entrance at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
A journalist walks around empty grounds at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
A journalist walks around empty grounds at the United Nations September 22, 2020 during the the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
General Assembly of the United Nations (Twitter)
General Assembly of the United Nations (Twitter)
A delegate arrives at the United Nations September 22, 2020 for the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
A delegate arrives at the United Nations September 22, 2020 for the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
Kelly Dawn Craft, United States Ambassador to the United Nations arrives at the United Nations September 22, 2020 for the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
Kelly Dawn Craft, United States Ambassador to the United Nations arrives at the United Nations September 22, 2020 for the 75th General Assembly of the United Nations which is mostly virtual due to the covid-19 pandemic in New York. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world to prevent a Cold War between the United States and China and halt conflicts so it can focus on the covid-19 pandemic. TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP
Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok attends a virtual meeting on Syria in The Hague, on September 23, 2020. The Netherlands uses the UN General Assembly to lobby for support for a lawsuit against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Bart Maat / ANP / AFP
Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok attends a virtual meeting on Syria in The Hague, on September 23, 2020. The Netherlands uses the UN General Assembly to lobby for support for a lawsuit against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Bart Maat / ANP / AFP
Queen Maxima of the Netherlands attends a meeting of the United Nations (UN) from Huis Ten Bosch in the Hague, on September 23, 2020. Patrick van Katwijk / ANP / AFP
Queen Maxima of the Netherlands attends a meeting of the United Nations (UN) from Huis Ten Bosch in the Hague, on September 23, 2020. Patrick van Katwijk / ANP / AFP
Iran's Atomic Energy Vice-President Ali Akbar Salehi, is seen speaking on a screen as he attends virtually the 64th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria on September 21, 2020. JOE KLAMAR / AFP
Iran's Atomic Energy Vice-President Ali Akbar Salehi, is seen speaking on a screen as he attends virtually the 64th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria on September 21, 2020. JOE KLAMAR / AFP
The United Nations building stands in Manhattan on the first official day of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2020 in New York City. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's gathering is mostly being held remotely with world leaders making speeches and appearances by video link. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP
The United Nations building stands in Manhattan on the first official day of the 75th United Nations General Assembly on September 22, 2020 in New York City. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year's gathering is mostly being held remotely with world leaders making speeches and appearances by video link. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP